As a percentage of total medical collections, staffing costs for clinical and administrative support staff represent a significant expense. The table below details industry averages for the primary specialties we serve:
The staffing infrastructure of your practice heavily influences your ability to scale and increase profitability. Without determining the proper staffing ratio for your organization, you may find yourself in the situation of desperately needing an employee at a time when it appears there are few qualified candidates in the market. By regularly reviewing your staffing needs, you begin to develop a keen eye on how to utilize staff members better, increase productivity, and promote growth at your clinic.
So, what is the appropriate staffing infrastructure for our practice? Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Begin by reviewing historical benchmarks, overtime hours, and assess the productivity of each staff member.
In comparing staffing costs to your specialty’s benchmark, you determine how the figure relates to peers, but this is only one variable. Dig deeper. Develop an understanding of what impacts the cost within each department. Consider the following questions:
• Are some employees less productive than others? What steps have you explored to decrease the gap in productivity among staff members?
• What metric do you use to assess productivity within each department?
• Are you currently understaffed within a department?
• Are employees multitasking?
• Are employees working overtime hours?
• What is the employee turnover within each department?
• Do employees receive standardized training on their assigned responsibilities?
Overtime hours create an expense with a diminishing return. You pay a premium for the hours when employees are overworked, exhausted, and less productive. We recommend that practices pursue initiatives to avoid and limit this expense. Constantly monitor overtime hours and develop a policy for when and how an employee will receive approval for overtime hours.
If you discover staff can’t accomplish their required work without accruing overtime hours, determine the source of the issue. If individual employees are unproductive, what is the root cause limiting their productivity? You may find that employees are productive, but they don’t have enough time. In this case, consider adding an employee. We also recommend creating evergreen job posts on your website for challenging to fill positions. You never know when a superstar applicant is in search of employment.
Although under staffing lowers the total cost for a department, it also negatively affects revenue and profitability. As an example, maybe your practice only employs one receptionist, who is responsible for answering phones and checking patients in and out of their appointments. One receptionist is sufficient at a lower volume, but what happens when several patients call at once, and five patients walk in for their visit? Each employee has a theoretical limit on the amount of work they can effectively accomplish. If a caller is a prospective new patient that is unable to reach a receptionist during regular business hours, what message does this communicate? Well, it certainly does not state, “we want to see you at our practice!” You can almost guarantee you will never see that patient at your practice. After hanging up, the prospective new patient is going to call a competitor that promptly answers their phones and schedule an appointment there. These intangible opportunity costs add up.
Your optimal staffing ratio is a moving target and may not agree with peer staffing ratios. Your technology and EHR also affect the workflows employees perform. Consequently, your organization will accomplish tasks based on the limits of the required workflows.
As we detailed here, there are an endless number of variables to consider. A solution that works for one competitor may be inappropriate for your organization. Continually work to further your knowledge on this topic and understand the relationship between these variables. In doing so, your organization will better its position to scale and increase profitability.